It is a condition where one of the eyes looks in a different direction when the other is looking forward. This is caused by an imbalance in the muscles of the eye. Squints are common in kids. “When detected early it is curable through a variety of safe and effective treatments,” says Dr G Harshavardhan Reddy, peadiatric ophthalmologist and squint consultant, Maxivision superspeciality Eye Hospitals.
What is squint?
It is normal for a newborn to wander or cross his or her eyes occasionally for the first few months of life. 70 per cent of the newborns have exotropia(eyes turn out) at birth, 20 per cent have esotropia ( eyes turn in), 10 per cent have straight eyes at birth. By four to six months usually the eyes straighten. If one or both eyes continue to wander in, out, up, down constantly or intermittently, even after six months of age, the condition is strabismus.
Strabismus can be either congenital(present soon after birth) or acquired( any time after birth). If strabismus develops in early childhood, around six years of age it could be a medical emergency, consult a paediatric ophthalmologist or a neurologist.
How vision is affected?
When eyes are misaligned straight eye becomes dominant, because its connections to the brain are normal. The misaligned eye becomes weaker and does not focus properly, as its connections to the brain will not form properly. If left untreated eventually brain suppresses the weaker eye resulting in amblyopia (lazy eye) or might lead to permanent vision loss. Long standing eye misalignment also might impair the development of depth perception (stereopsis) or the ability to see 3D.
Kids reach visual maturity by around eight years, it is during these early years of development that vital connections between the eyes and brain are formed, so early intervention is necessary, to have straight eyes, good vision and proper depth perception(3D images). The social aspect to strabismus also should not be overlooked. Properly aligned eyes are important for a healthy self-image and good interpersonal relationships in kids and adults. Straight eyes and proper depth perception (higher order visual ability), is important for certain professions like sports, pilots, artists, glamour field,etc.
Mandatory eye check ups for babies after birth till one year of age atleast once in four months. Premature babies need to be consulted by a retina specialist or paediatric ophthalmologist. Consult a paediatric ophthalmologist if there is a family history of strabismus or if you notice face turn or head tilt in kids while watching T.V, reading,etc. Yearly eye check ups for kids wearing glasses.
Trauma or chronic health problems like uncontrolled diabetes mallietus, hypertion, previous eye surgeries can cause paralysis or restriction to the eye muscles and cause diplopia(double vision). If there is sudden onset of double vision consult your ophthalmologist.